The growth of Tartu in the 19th century was closely connected to the re-opening of the university in 1802. The university drew outstanding scholars and soon Tartu became the most important cultural centre in the region. Many travellers stopped in Tartu to visit the university and because of the favourable location of the town, en route from St. Petersburg, the capital of the Russian Empire, to Western Europe.
Travelling, an integral part of education at that time, raised the demand for paintings to recollect the places visited. Topographical scenes as a genre were already quite widespread in the 18th century and became popular in the region at the dawn of the next century. Town views and picturesque sites were published in series and these prints, in various techniques, were rather cheap and readily available, even to poorer travellers.
The following artworks have been selected from the works of graphic artists who lived in Tartu and will offer a glimpse of the architecture (as well the artistry) of Tartu during the 19th century.
The first series of views of Tartu were made by Georg Friedrich Schlater (1804-1870), an immigrant artist who established the first lithography workshop in Tartu and quickly gained recognition. The series “Views of Tartu and its Surroundings”, created in the 1830s, presented the most romantic spots in Tartu, as seen by the artist. Schlater’s lithographs were gentle in tones and rich in shades; slight inaccuracy in perspective can be noticed here and there.
August Matthias Hagen (1794-1878), a teacher of art at the university, was also a prolific artist. He created views of Estonia and Livonia, a few of which he also engraved. On the aquatint sheet “Observatory” (1828), we can see an almost bare Toome Hill and private residences on the adjacent Vallikraavi Street. This drawing still has the characteristic features of Classicism, as the forefront is noticeably shaded and the composition is closed at the sides.
Estonian artist Woldemar Friedrich Krüger (1808-1894) also worked as teacher at the university. Competing with Schlater, he lithographed a six-sheet series of views of Tartu that strive for more detail and realism.
An album of views of Tartu (1860) by German photographer Louis Höflinger provides evidence of the Krüger’s efforts to accurately fix a specific moment of time. His lithographs offer the best view of the centre of Tartu, where the architectural development was completed by the middle of the 19th century. The suburb over the river was depicted in “A Vview from the Resource Garden “, where low wooden houses surrounded the Meltsiveski Pool.
This set of the views of Tartu in the 19th century was compiled from the original works in the art collection of the Tartu University Library. The town centre, depicted in graphic sheets, still has its original form and offers many intriguing opportunities for comparison.